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What Is The Difference Between Public Relations And Marketing For Building Brand Awareness?

Jessica Starman, MBA, Co-Founder & CEO of Elev8 New Media.

People oftentimes won’t buy the best product, but they’re very likely to buy the best advertised product. Think about that for a moment. Having the best product won’t help an organization to achieve much if there isn’t anybody out there who knows your product is the best.

So, is this a public relations (PR) problem or a marketing problem? Or does it involve both professions?

The blurred lines between PR and marketing still present a conundrum where many professionals struggle. As the co-founder and CEO of a public relations firm, I’ve seen that an often-made mistake is to think that one is simply an extension of the other and that both are just different names for achieving the same thing. Unfortunately, many business leaders succumb to this mindset, and it’s a mistake that can hugely undermine an organization’s marketing goals and objectives.

A closer look at the two reveals that PR and marketing each serve their own unique purposes, and both have very different roles in terms of what each should be expected to achieve for your organization.

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With target audiences growing increasingly distracted, organizations hoping to succeed in modern society would be prudent to build a clear understanding of how PR and marketing strategies differ from one another. In fact, both disciplines are important for an organization’s outward-facing strategy. Many organizations that are recognized as leaders in their industry became that way largely by marrying these two disciplines—a formula that yields optimum levels of brand awareness and revenue growth opportunities.

Public Relations Versus Marketing

In the simplest terms, PR efforts are focused on building a positive and dynamic reputation, commonly via third parties like journalists and news outlets, while marketing is more directly focused on lead generation and advertising—usually via a paid media source. In other words, marketing is saying, “We’re awesome,” while PR efforts cultivate a market environment where other people already know that you’re awesome because of an existing (positive) reputation.

A closer look at the two can help your organization avoid “putting the cart before the horse.”

Public Relations

PR is the discipline that you use to build the public perception of your company—its reputation. Therefore, I’ve found it’s best for an organization to define its brand before throwing money at marketing tactics. This is chiefly why organizations seek out PR professionals who have established relationships with journalists capable of accessing resources in television, magazine and social media environments. An excellent example of a successful PR practice is getting a reporter to write a favorable article about your company or product on a website or in a publication that reaches many. That’s good PR.

PR is widely recognized as a form of earned media, and it shouldn’t be expected to yield immediate results as one might expect from airing a commercial on TV. PR requires persistent efforts that are contributed toward a long-term strategy designed to promote a positive image for an organization’s brand in the marketplace.

In our industry, you will often hear that “PR is a marathon, not a sprint.” This is very true.

A closer look at sales reveals that getting more sales is often simply a result of brand awareness, which brings us to marketing.

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Marketing is widely defined as any effort that an organization dedicates toward promoting and selling its product or service to consumers, including advertising and marketing research. Marketing efforts such as advertising are focused on promoting a particular good or service to a specific demographic of consumers. It’s a paid form of media designed to generate immediate revenue. Marketing typically operates on a more accelerated timeline than PR, and it is precisely focused on a target audience, whereas your PR strategy is built to appeal to the public at large.

Remember that marketing, advertising and other forms of direct marketing are the shortest routes to increased sales.


Successful companies today have largely adopted a practice of strategically intertwining their marketing and PR efforts so that they can present a more pervasive brand image to the marketplace. In order to succeed, every organization needs to be able to sell its products, and if consumers aren’t receptive to an organization’s image, they’re less likely to buy. PR efforts, which a 2014 Nielsen study found to be 88% more effective than advertising, help you in the long haul, while marketing injects the marketplace with sudden bursts of persuasive information to help immediately sell a product or idea.

Frankly, to succeed in today’s marketplace, you will rarely find an organization that segregates its PR from its marketing efforts anymore. There is much more to be gained when PR and marketing departments work interdependently.

Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?


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